Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is back on our screens this evening. He might have a new ‘take me seriously Mr Politician’ haircut but he’s still got a fight on his hands if he wants to amend EU fishing regulations. Since his last documentary six months ago, in which he exposed the practice of chucking perfectly good fish back into the ocean to appease European law, over 700,000 of the British public have signed his Fish Fight petition. Due to the publicâs overwhelming support and Hughâs own passion for the cause, he’s now determined to sea (sorry.. see) his battle through to the end.
Britain spends an astonishing Â£3 billion a year on fish, but over half of that is spent on just three species; Cod, Tuna and Salmon. In his last programme Hugh attempted to persuade the public to be more adventurous in their choice of fish, tempting them with cheaper and often tastier variations and even bringing fellow celebrity chef and food campaigning guru Jamie Oliver on board in his battle to get things like Plaice on our dinner plates. He even has royalty on his side. Prince Charles, who compliments Hugh on his new hairdo (âExtraordinary how it changes peopleâ?), also admits to being a big fan of the âMac Bapâ, which true to its name, is a bit of mackerel in a bap, which became increasingly popular in chip shops across the country after January’s programme and a firm favourite within Buckingham Palace.
âMac Bapsâ aside Hugh has bigger fish to fry. His main objective is to really make a change on European fishing policies before itâs too late and he returns the issue of discards, a hot topic in his first film, which each year sees tons of dead fish thrown back into the sea. More often than not this fish is of a high quality, yet is tossed aside due to laws on fishing quantities, or simply because the fish is undersized or an unpopular species. Disgusted at the waste of perfectly good fish Hugh heads Brussels to support European commissioner Maria Damanaki in her challenge to see a ban on discards in European waters. Hugh turns on the charm to add more members to his petition from all across Europe, with great success. Damanaki’s voice is also met with support and within a year and half there is a genuine chance that âDiscardsâ will become an illegal fishing practice in Europe. As Hugh points out, although this is a great achievement it is wise to be âCautiously optimisticâ, and to keep the fight fresh in the minds of those in power of changing the law.
Another of the Fish Fightâs successes comes in the turnaround in major supermarkets policies on Tuna fishing. In the first fight, only Sainsburyâs, Waitrose and M & S caught their fish by the environmentally friendly âpole and lineâ method. Since the last broadcast and subsequent petitions, nearly all of the major supermarkets including Asda and Tesco have now joined Hughâs good books by exclusively using this method. The brand Princeâs were a little harder to persuade, but after a rather comical protest involving a group of men in fury Shark suits, waving angry placards around to the Jaws theme tune, they eventually caved in. John West however seemed determined to have a PR nightmare and remain the only major provider to stick two fingers up to HFW and the environment. After denying interviews throughout the whole of the programme, we can only assume the firm’s management were sitting in their plush offices torturing goldfish. However in Hughâs final comments, he does reveal that the firm has reluctantly jumped ship and committed themselves to abandoning old tuna fishing methods, in favour of the eco-friendlier ways by 2016. Better late than never we suppose..
Ultimately Hugh has a lot to be pleased about. His campaign has made a major difference within fishing trends and addressed the important topic of food wastage which is an ugly, yet preventable reality of Western society. Hugh is a charismatic and likeable host, who you canât help routing for and his fight has successfully resonated with the public while highlighting the power of television as a means of mobilising the public. If Hugh had just written a newspaper article or called out on Twitter for people to support him on his fish fight, then his campaign would have merely been food for thought, rather than the policy changing triumph it has become. Of course it will now be a waiting game to see if the law on discards is finally passed. Hugh concludes his engaging and eye opening documentary highlighting, âThe fight isnât over, but it is well under wayâ?.